Norman Toback tells a tale of family, love, and hope in It’s a Wonderful Life:
Live Radio Play at The Naples Players
An uplifting tale of family, love, and hope – It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas story that has stolen the hearts of audiences for over 70 years, and is bound to do so again with The Naples Players’ (TNP) upcoming performance of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play. Sponsored by Transcend Capital Advisors, this holiday classic will be performed downtown in Cambier Park for two nights only on December 8th and 9th, 2023.
For retired college dean and professor, Norman Toback, performing in this show is the opportunity of a lifetime. “It’s one of my favorite movies. It’s a dream getting to do this play based on a movie I absolutely adore.”
After moving to Florida in 2008, Toback says that he wasn’t completely ready for retirement. “I needed something to put my skills towards, and I have always wanted to be an actor. I started taking classes here and in Venice and eventually got up enough courage to start auditioning. I’ve discovered that being a college professor is a lot like acting. So far as I’m concerned, I’ve always been an actor. My lesson is my script – it’s all in my head. I know what my subject is, and I have to make it interesting for my class or audience. I have to use a lot of the same skills.”
Since finding TNP in 2018, Norman hasn’t looked back. He’s been in several productions including Calendar Girls, The Sound of Music, a number of Readers Theatre productions, and the Readers Theatre Radio. “I love being involved with TNP. This community has become my second home and my family. I love how professional it is here. This troupe, this theater, the people – everything keeps me coming back.”
“I’m not a kid anymore, but I’m not done learning yet. This is a gift I’ve given myself to be able to try new things that perhaps are a little bit different from the way I had to make a living. This is me allowing myself to have fun and get involved every single day. Regardless of how hard it is – and it can be hard, you know you’ve got to memorize lines and movement – it’s still a gift. And if you want to get involved, this is a gift that you can give yourself as well.”
Additionally, Norman was also a part of the original cast of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play three years ago. “I still remember when we got the call from Cole three years ago saying that two of our leads were ill and we would be unable to perform,” recalls Norman, “I’ve always said to my friends, ‘boy, I hope they bring it back,’ because it’s such a fun and impactful show. It’s a great show to be a part of and a great cast. Everybody is really animated and we’re having so much fun with the script and the story. I love every rehearsal, the process, and being on stage.”
After three years apart, Norman says that he feels more prepared for this experience and show. “I now have two more plays under my belt, and I think I understand a little more about characterization. I’ve developed my ensemble characters a lot since three years ago. I’ve learned that acting is becoming the part. I’ve learned how to get into the head and the psychological process of the characters I play: why they’re saying what they’re saying, and what motivates them to say something in a particular moment in a particular way.”
While his character and confidence level have changed, one thing has remained consistent. “My favorite part of the process has been the relationships I’ve developed with the other actors and the creative team. It’s a real family here. From the very first night of rehearsal, we fell right back into it. It was like the three years never happened.”
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is based on the classic 1946 holiday movie with a clever twist: the production is staged as a live radio broadcast. Norman says he remembers listening to radio plays when he was younger, and still enjoys making them to this day. This component was one of the things that drew him to this production. A radio play is a play that’s broadcast with only sound over the radio. It’s all about sound, voice characterization, and using your imagination. Since this show is live, it’s much more like a traditional play than a radio play, but it still heavily relies on your voice and sound to tell the story.”
Described by Chicago Sun-Times as “One of the best holiday shows around. This is a fresh and inventive way of reconnecting with a classic story of love and redemption,” Norman says, “If you love the movie, you’re going to love the play, and you’re going to be surprised at how much the play adds to the story. The play adds no new content, but the live presentation adds to the audience’s understanding of what George Bailey is going through.”
Performed for two nights only on December 8th and 9th, 2023 at 8 pm. It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play will be performed offsite outdoors in Cambier Park while The Naples Players’ historic 5th Ave S building undergoes a $20 million renovation. General tickets are $49, and season ticket holders are offered a price of $39.
Those interested can visit NaplesPlayers.org anytime or call the TNP Box Office at (239)263-7990.
ABOUT THE NAPLES PLAYERS
The Naples Players is a non-profit community theatre committed to the enrichment, education, and entertainment of our community through a superior theatre experience. For more than 70 years, the theatre has served as the cultural jewel of Downtown Naples, Florida.